Food is on the ballot in Brazil’s contentious presidential vote on Oct. 7, but for many Brazilians, it’s not the issue that will decide the election.
Instead, electioneering is about food. And not the kind of bland, industrial food that is becoming more and more common in Brazil as the country’s booming economy expands. The political and cultural debate around food is taking center stage ahead of the election, which pits leftist Workers’ Party candidate Jair Bolsonaro against centrist rival Fernando Haddad.
Bolsonaro’s anti-immigration proposals could harm Brazil’s food supply, according to some experts — a fear he has assuaged by promising to build a wall along the country’s border with its southern neighbor. The Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported last week that Bolsonaro told his supporters that he will “take steps to control who is bringing in food from the U.S. and what kind of food we eat.”
“We are not looking for war; we are not looking for war,” Haddad told Brazil’s TV Globo. “We are just looking to create stability and to improve the economy, which is the main priority.”
Brazil, the world’s largest producer of coffee and the world’s most populous country, is now turning its attention to beef, its second-largest export after coffee.
The Brazilian cattle industry is a pillar of the economy, accounting for two-thirds of food consumption after transportation and agriculture. However, Brazil suffered a series of recent trade disputes with exporters and importers. In July, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s trade unions and government had acted illegally by blocking the purchase of American beef.
Last month, Haddad’s Worker’s Party (PT) unveiled a beef policy aimed at pressuring supermarket chains to sell Brazil-branded beef. The party said that an analysis from the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil’s statistics agency, found that 65 percent of beef sold in Brazil’s supermarkets is not from Brazil. In 2017, the figure was 40 percent, according to IBGE.
“Bolsonaro’s comments about meat and soybeans have shown us that he’s not just a populist politician. He’s also an extremist,” says Aline Frech, a food policy researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
She pointed to